Ain’t Too Proud Star James Harkness Is Finding Creative Outlets in Quarantine
Living near the theater district during the Broadway shutdown, photographer and performer Matthew Stocke has been haunted walking past the empty theater palaces sitting in repose, waiting for the lights and stars to return. In this new Broadway.com photo feature, he reunites members of the theater community with their Broadway home Away From Home.
AIN’T TOO PROUD
“Lord” James Harkness, a moniker given to him by his Aida co-stars, was busy dancing and singing as The Temptations’ Paul Williams in Ain’t Too Proud on Broadway when it was announced that theaters would be shutting down. Originally announced as a month-long closure, Harkness was looking forward to a time of rest. Now six months in and at least five more months to go, the Ain’t Too Proud star is rediscovering what it means to be both an artist and a human. Here, Harkness shares what he has learned in quarantine that has changed his mindset, and why he’s OK with being alone.
“At first I was all for it. Yes, shut Broadway down. If the safest thing to do is to close the theaters down for the safety of our entire theater community—both onstage and offstage—then yes, absolutely. My second thought was, ‘Yo, Broadway, we get to take a break. We actually get a chance to rest.’ Yes, it’s certainly been trying. I have gone through my emotional swings, but I really do my best to swing into the good and swing out of the bad as quickly as I can… I am a quarantine. And what I mean by that is, I have always been good at being on my own. I’m an entertainer, so, of course, I love being around people. Being off on my own was never a hard thing, so quarantine is not an issue. The artistic side of me is blooming during this time period. All my creative energy went into Ain’t Too Proud, which has been a gift of all gifts. I’m a choreographer, I’m a director, I’m a songwriter. Once this situation happened, and I was able to slow my body, brain, and heart down, all of those things could just be. I started freestyle dancing and dreaming songs again… What I’ve realized during this time is recognizing that I need to stay creative. I need to find ways I can have that outlet as a creative individual beyond being a performer. People have been like, ‘Oh, you must miss Ain’t Too Proud.’ Of course I do! It’s a f**king great show, and I work amongst an incredible cast… I’m realizing the simplicity of doing nothing. The importance of being able to connect to your family and friends without feeling like you’re constantly running. That is something that’s definitely esoteric, but it is something that I want to figure out.”
Photos by Matthew Stocke/Matt James Photo NYC for Broadway.com
Additional reporting by Caitlin Moynihan